Here’s a moment I’d like to share.
I was at an event in Didsbury and ran into writer and performance artist Rosie Garland. I hadn’t seen her since her diagnosis of throat cancer in 2009. Since then, she’d had the all clear and subsequently landed a six-figure deal with Harper Collins. Her book, The Palace of Curiosities, will be out next year.
The conversation turned to death, and that’s something I’ve been thinking about recently. After Neil Armstrong died it hit me again that this really does happen to everyone. Everyone who ever lived has died, but we know so little about it. It’s not like law or science where there is a great cumulative body of knowledge to work with. We have no idea what happens after death. We can keep it away longer and longer, but ultimately it will get all of us. We have won time’s lottery in terms of health, culture, medicine and welfare but in terms of the one big fundamental we are cavemen staring at the sky. And no one has ever come back to tell us about it.
Death is the one thing all human beings have in common. We’re all on this journey together but the universality of our future encourages little solidarity. Instead we just fight amongst ourselves. And a little perspective would make us see how ridiculous are the things that keep us at each other’s throats. Sam Harris writes:
Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass in the street today, is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?
I tried to express these half-formed ideas at this conversation in Didsbury. I remember I did quote the line from Christopher Hitchens: ‘Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake: the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.’
‘That’s why I’m planning to make a lot of noise,’ Rosie said.
I can’t wait for that novel.